Super Arts – My Favourite Dimension

While perusing videos and articles on the usual video game websites I was mindlessly clicking through them thinking, “Yeah that looks OK… that looks cool… sure I might rent this.” I wasn’t sighing nor cognisant of my relative indifference while checking out some of the E3 trailers until I happened across a video for a game called Dust: An Elysian Tail. Unwittingly I edged closer to my screen to pay more attention and after watching the video I got to thinking; why did this game wake me from my meandering?

Put simply it’s because Dust: An Elysian Tail looks utterly stunning! There is something about the game that made it jump out at me to command my attention and, thinking about it more now, the reasons for this are as beautifully simple as they are incredibly effective; it’s the fact it’s 2D and designed by an Artist.

By Artist I do not mean the tired notion of the brooding, sensitive type, I mean someone who is sensitive to and knowledgeable of all things pertaining to visuals and it seems video games on the whole are sorely lacking creations by these types of people. Ninja Theory is a development studio who show a profound understanding of art as well as; Team Silent, Atlus, Vanillaware et al but, on the whole, the calibre of visually interesting and aesthetically effective games of late is well below par. This is why Dust got my attention; it is incredibly visually compelling.

The world and characters created by one-man-army Dean Dodrill aren’t just pretty – don’t get me wrong they are – but they exude a kind of subtle, unique flair. The world feels familiar yet surprising and comes across as neither derivative nor irreverent and the same goes for the characters who are joyfully unique without being bonkers. This is a hell of an achievement in-and-of-itself but it’s noticing the subtlest of subtle aesthetic choices in Dust that make me giddy with joy. Unlike so many other developers, Dodrill understands the importance of light and implements it so well to give the characters (especially during dialogue) a real solidity and the light-splitting prism effect on some attacks is just utterly amazing; its subtlety belies its massive visual impact, just like it should.

These little flourishes are too often overlooked; the direct, tangible benefit of their inclusion for the company’s bottom-line is not easily discernable so it’s easy to see why some publishers might dismiss them as ancillary. However, as far as I’m concerned, it’s these little details that make the game feel right and helps give it a sense of identity as well as make it stick in the player’s mind. Few Artists comprehend this as well as animators (such as Dodrill) whose profession involves implementing numerous techniques that, when done well, lend a sense of momentum to motion and impact to combat; they make it come to life and without their expertise your favourite Disney or Ghibli movies would be dry and lifeless. This, along with the sheer awfulness of half-baked 3D worlds and worse, charmless 2.5D, is why I adore 2D sprite based games and lament their dwindling presence.

Dust is an absolute joy to watch but at this point I have to reserve judgement until I get to play it and see if the 2D combat and platforming are well implemented. That said this is most definitely a game and a developer to keep a close eye on. I am slightly saddened that it won’t be on PS Vita as that game on that screen would look utterly stunning but major kudos must go to Microsoft for spotting this game and bringing it to their Summer of Arcade.






3 responses to “Super Arts – My Favourite Dimension”

  1. Dan Dodrill avatar
    Dan Dodrill

    Hi Paul, I love the way you wrote this in a most impressive technical artistic way, more than any of the other hundreds of reviews I’ve read. You understand the nuances of art, lighting, etc, where most other reviewers more discuss gameplay. Nice review, and I believe you will love the game, and I could generically say “you ain’t seen nothing yet” from just the demo. I’ve played thru 5 times in 720P HD, and the graphics are truely unbelievable. I would say that even if Dean wasn’t my son.

  2. Dan Dodrill avatar
    Dan Dodrill

    Wait until you see the beautiful luminescent giant red mushrooms swaying above.

  3. Paul avatar

    Hey Dan. Thank you so much. As someone who also “Gets” the nuances of Art you no doubt know how I feel when looking at things like this; it’s like a part of you lights up! I am genuinely excited to play this game…relax and drink it all in! It looks fantastic.
    I wanna see the mushroooooms! 😉 Thank you very much, Dan…or Mr.D I feel I should call you 😉

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